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Body-Donor Chief at UCLA Misstated Credentials

March 11, 2004|Peter Y. Hong and Charles Ornstein | Times Staff Writers

The director of UCLA's body-donor program, suspected of illegally selling hundreds of cadavers donated to the medical school, lied in a deposition in 2002 about his professional and academic background, according to a review by The Times.

Henry G. Reid, who was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of grand theft, also repeatedly filed for bankruptcy protection -- three times before he was hired by UCLA in 1997, and once afterward.

On Wednesday, UCLA's lawyer said the university felt "duped" by Reid. The medical school had hailed him as amply qualified to restore credibility to the willed body program seven years ago, when it was facing another scandal over the improper disposal of remains.

As late as Feb. 10, in a court hearing before the scandal broke, an attorney for UCLA said that its willed body program under Reid was an "exemplar to all programs."

In front of UCLA attorneys in November 2002, however, Reid painted an apparently distorted picture of his credentials while under oath. His statements came in a deposition in a lawsuit by dissatisfied families of donors who questioned whether the program was being properly run.

Reid touted his qualifications: He claimed that he had earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and music from what is now St. John's Seminary and a master's degree in music from Cal State Fullerton.

No Records of Degrees

Officials at both schools said Wednesday that records do not show Reid received a degree.

It appears that Reid claimed accolades that do not exist -- such as a summa cum laude distinction at a school that has none.

"I am extremely disappointed that Mr. Reid in a deposition ... appears to have testified falsely under oath," said Louis Marlin, an outside lawyer whose firm represented UCLA at the deposition. "It is the position of our law firm that we never would have permitted such action had we known about it."

Marlin said he did not learn of the discrepancies until they were brought to his attention by The Times on Wednesday. He then compared Reid's resume from UCLA to the deposition testimony and found that the resume did not contain the deposition's inaccuracies. He declined to release the resume because of restrictions governing employee confidentiality.

Marlin said UCLA would support the filing of a perjury charge if authorities determine Reid lied.

Reid has repeatedly refused to comment on the allegations against him.

Lawyers representing the families of donors said the information about Reid's background further called into question UCLA's oversight of its body-donor program, which was indefinitely suspended earlier this week.

"There is absolutely no excuse why UCLA was not aware of this before today," said Raymond Boucher, who is suing UCLA on behalf of donors' families. "This is more evidence that this program is and has been out of control for a decade and all the more reason why it has to be shut down permanently.

"You just can't expect that these foxes are ever going to properly guard the henhouse," Boucher said.

UCLA officials said that before last month, they never had any reason to suspect wrongdoing by Reid.

Medical school spokeswoman Dale Tate said Reid had undergone a Department of Justice background check before he was hired and "he was cleared with no criminal history."

Public records show that his personal finances, however, were shaky before his hire.

According to court documents, Reid struggled for years to pay tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent income taxes dating back to the early 1980s.

Reid and his wife had filed for bankruptcy in 1981, 1992, 1994 and 1998, according to records on file at the federal archives in Laguna Niguel. By 1998, the records show, the couple owed the Internal Revenue Service more than $100,000.

Following the 1992 and 1994 filings, the records show, the Reids lost their court-ordered bankruptcy protection because they were unable to keep up with monthly payments to satisfy their debt.

Erased $50,000 of Debt

They did not have that problem with the 1998 case, which was filed seven months after Reid accepted a job with UCLA's willed body program. In that case, the Reids made good on their plan to erase about $50,000 in debt -- apparently satisfying their obligation to the IRS -- over a period of three years, the court documents show.

The years in which they were paying off the debt overlapped with those in which Reid is suspected of selling human body parts for personal profit.

Attorney Jeffrey S. Shinbrot, who represented the Reids in their latest bankruptcy, downplayed any connection to the body-selling scandal.

He noted that the Reids' repayment plan, which included an analysis of their respective incomes, was reviewed and approved by a court-appointed trustee.

"The implication that there's a connection between the UCLA matter and the Reids' [bankruptcy] is, at best, unsupported," Shinbrot said.

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